Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the mesothelium, a lining covering many internal organs. A mesothelioma diagnosis can be overwhelming and scary. However, it’s important to remember that there are still treatment options and sources of support available. Taking immediate action after being diagnosed with mesothelioma can significantly impact your prognosis and quality of life.
This blog covers the most essential steps to take after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Seek a Second Opinion
Getting a second opinion from another specialist is strongly advised after any cancer diagnosis, especially one as rare as mesothelioma. The additional perspective from a new doctor can provide reassurance or introduce you to alternative treatment options. For instance, the first doctor may have recommended one type of treatment, but the second doctor may explain why a different approach could be better suited for your specific case.
Second opinions also help you make more confident decisions about which doctor or cancer center you choose for treatment. Doctors with more experience treating this rare cancer tend to have better patient outcomes.
Explore Legal Options
Many patients were exposed to asbestos in the workplace, which is the reason behind mesothelioma. Construction workers, mechanics, and U.S. Navy Veterans make up the majority of those diagnosed. If occupational asbestos exposure plays a role in your diagnosis, then consulting mesothelioma lawyers could be beneficial. An attorney can investigate your work history, identify liable companies, and discuss filing a lawsuit to pursue compensation.
Legal action cannot undo the damage done, but it can provide financial security and pay for medical bills. Every situation is different, but consulting with a lawyer is advisable fairly soon after diagnosis to understand what legal options are available before treatment starts.
Assemble Your Healthcare Team
One of the most important decisions after being diagnosed with mesothelioma is selecting your medical team. Finding an oncologist who specializes in mesothelioma and has experience managing advanced asbestos-related cancers is key.
Assemble a larger care team, including a surgeon, specialists based on your symptoms, nurses, and other support staff. Having access to experts from different disciplines under one roof often leads to the best care. A mesothelioma specialist can help coordinate between all members of your medical team. Clinical trials may also be an option, so finding a center that actively researches new mesothelioma treatments is encouraged.
Consider Treatment Options
After choosing your medical team, you will discuss your treatment options. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for mesothelioma, given each patient’s unique tumor location, cell type, stage, and symptoms. Often, a multimodal approach that combines surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation is recommended.
Surgery can remove affected sections of the mesothelium in the early stages when the cancer has not spread. Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to try and kill cancer cells, and radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to shrink and slow tumor growth. When weighing your options, consider your priorities, the potential side effects, and the doctor’s advice on which therapies could improve prognosis or quality of life.
Prioritize Mental and Emotional Well-being
A mesothelioma diagnosis understandably takes a toll on your mental health and emotions. Feelings of fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, and denial are normal. You can seek counseling or join a cancer support group to help process these feelings. Speaking with a therapist or people going through similar experiences can provide a lot of comfort.
Your social support system of family and friends will also be integral to your mental well-being. Be open about your diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis so loved ones can be there for you. Don’t isolate yourself when you need connection the most. Taking care of your emotional health is just as important as physical health when fighting cancer.
Organize Finances and Insurance
The costs associated with mesothelioma treatment, whether it be surgery, chemotherapy, alternative therapies, or clinical trials, can quickly add up. Long hospital stays, plus expenses like transportation and lodging, also impact budgets.
So, you need to understand what costs your health insurance will cover. Reach out to your provider, request a case manager, and be clear about your diagnosis. Verify your coverage, deductibles, and potential out-of-pocket expenses. If you plan to take legal action against asbestos companies, you can speak with your lawyer about arranging structured settlements or setting aside funds to pay for medical costs.
Focus on Nutrition and Physical Health
Eating well and staying active can help you feel better physically and emotionally while undergoing cancer treatment. Work with your doctor to determine which foods and nutrients can boost your energy levels and ability to heal. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats are generally recommended. Stay hydrated, control portion sizes, and limit sugar, salt, and processed items.
Your appetite and tolerance for certain foods may change throughout treatment.
Stay Updated on Mesothelioma Research
Given the rarity of mesothelioma, new research and clinical trials are continuously emerging that may impact your treatment plan and prognosis. After your initial treatment begins, make sure you continue to stay updated on the latest mesothelioma studies and developments.
Joining email lists through cancer research centers or nonprofit organizations will help you stay in the loop on new mesothelioma treatments being tested, results from recent studies, and medical conferences discussing promising advances. While you need to focus on your current treatment regimen, being aware of emerging options could provide hope or alternate paths if required.
Being diagnosed with mesothelioma can feel overwhelming. But taking it step-by-step and being proactive after your diagnosis can help you navigate this challenging time. Educate yourself about the disease, get the right specialists on your medical team, and explore all your treatment options. Make emotional well-being a priority and get your finances in order. F
While mesothelioma presents difficulties, know that you have the inner strength and external support to fight this disease with courage, hope, and determination. By taking the right steps after your diagnosis, you can advocate for your health, understand what to expect, and improve your quality of life.